Monday, 10 January 2011

Staving off the January blues

Recently I was reading somewhere (needless to say my goldfish brain can’t remember where) about the psychological benefits of keeping a ‘gratitude journal’. Apparently the small act of writing down three small, specific things daily for which you are thankful boosts feelings of positivity and contentment and can significantly reduce stress. Now, I have slight issues with the ‘daily’ part (as regular followers of this blog might not be surprised to hear) but I’m all in favour of the stress relief thing and the increased positivity, especially when everything outside is the colour of sludge, there’s a big, Christmas-tree shaped space in my sitting room, I have a book due far too soon and all of my clothes seem to have shrunk by two sizes. Here’s my specially-extended-to-cover-all-of-January gratitude list...

  • We escaped all the horrible viruses going around over Christmas. The school car park is full of stories of turkey and Prosecco being replaced by Neurofen MaxPlus and Lemsip, and children too poorly to take much interest in whether Father Christmas had been. (Have noticed though that none of the people relating these tales have the same problem doing their jeans up as I do. So if you were afflicted with Festive Flu perhaps that might be worth noting in your gratitude journal…??)

  • I’m thankful for my sisters-in-law. I have three brothers who are married to three warm, funny, kind, talented (and beautiful, but I’m prepared to forgive them that) women who I’d absolutely want as my friends if my thoughtful brothers hadn’t gone one better and made them into family. So I guess that means I can also say I’m thankful for my brothers too.

  • On a similar note, I’m thankful for and to all the readers who email from all over the world and invariably say things that make me glow inside. (V important when on the outside skin has taken on the colour and texture of ancient parchment and only glows after two glasses of wine drunk while sitting too close to the fire.)

  • ...And leading on from that… I’m insanely grateful to all you lovely American ladies who bought The Society Wife and put it at no 2 on Borders last week and no 82 on the USA Today list. Inside positively incandescent when I discovered that!
  • Being horribly shallow, I was thankful for/excited about the bottle of Cristal Champagne He brought home from work just before Christmas. I’ve read about it, mentioned it in my own books (though can’t remember if the mentions stayed in through copy-edits, actually) and admired its pretty packaging in the posh wine shop window in town. I’m also thankful that, being a complete philistine, I couldn’t tell the difference between that and Sainsbury’s finest. I'm calling that a saving of £200 every celebratory occasion.
  • Just Dance/ Just Dance 2 on the Wii, both of which appeared under our tree this Christmas. Much hilarity, although trying to keep up with Teen Dancing Queen daughters is a sobering reminder of my age. Although, who would have thought He would turn out to be such a hot MC Hammer impersonator, or that after 20 years I'd still be finding stuff out that I didn't know about my husband?
  • I’m thankful that, due to my utter flakiness in seeing through my new year resolutions for 2010 I am saved from having to think up more for 2011. And that the house and the fridge are both empty now and, positive energy duly recharged, I can finally get down to some proper work.

So, does anyone actually keep a gratitude journal? If you did what would you put down for today?


Rachel Lyndhurst said...

Never heard of the Gratitude thing, but it's a very good idea. Today it *would* have been 'no bugs over Christmas',but youngest is off sick today! Instead I will choose 'glad I went shopping on Friday'.

And it sound like Valentine's day is sorted: Hammer pants!


Abby Green said...

I'm going to be completely soppy and say that I'm grateful for you my dear - a true friend and confidante who supports, encourages, occasionally insults and who I couldn't be doing this writing lark without! x

Michelle Styles said...

Echoing Abby here.
I am v grateful for the friendship and for your stories which invaribly cheer me up.

ros said...

No, but I was reading someone else's blog who also mentioned it today. She's going to try to do it daily but restrict it to just 3 things. On that basis my three things today are:
1. Kind, funny, thoughtful, helpful colleagues at work.
2. New boots which make me feel like I could be a heroine in an old-fashioned Western.
3. Knitting.

Morton S Gray said...

I once kept one for a year, instead of a conventional diary. It works very well at keeping your mood positive.

Today, I'm grateful for being warm and dry - oh and that there is no snow! And that I met you last year! Mx

Ellie Swoop said...

A good one India, I once kept a gratitude journal for a year with five items a day and it was a very positive year! Today I am grateful for Morton Gray being quoted in Writer's Forum - go Morton! For my lovely son helping his girlfriend with her Uni essay (and for her calling me a writer) and for the amazing amount of energy I've had today to get everything on the list done and more besides. I'm grateful for texts from friends and the warm smiles of strangers, and for being tucked up in the warm house with a purring striped cat whilst the wind and rain blow outside. Ellie xx

India said...

Sorry to hear the bugs have finally caught up with you Rach. Pollyanna would no doubt say that you should be glad he wasn't poorly over Christmas, but at least there would have been better telly to keep him occupied while he languished on the sofa! Hope he's feeling better very soon. (And that's an INSPIRED idea for Valentines day. Can feel an ebay search coming on...)

Abby and Michelle - you are both wonderful and I'm truly, truly grateful to have you as my friends. And that's me being dead serious, which doesn't happen very often!

I think three things daily is the right way to do it Ros. I thought I'd better pile a few more things onto my list as there's no way I'll be doing it every day! I'm so liking the sound of your boots - in fact, just imagining them has made me happy. And I was thinking of you today as I went into the cupcake shop and a knitting group was just finishing. It definitely felt like your spiritual home!

Wow Morton and Ellie - you both kept it up for a full year? Do you ever look back at it now, and do you still value the same things? How difficult was it to find different things every day? Morton, BIG congratulations on your WF mention! That's a great and auspicious start to your writing year. (I'm grateful for having met you both too, and for that lovely, relaxed morning we spent together. Must do it again sometime this year.) Ellie, you ARE a writer, as anyone reading your lovely, lyrical comment can tell. Reading that made me notice the wind and rain on my own window, and then I was grateful for being inside and warm too. x

Morton S Gray said...

Hi India,

I think a gratitude journal or attitude is like anything - if you focus on it you get the iseda. So no, it isn't hard to do and can be very uplifting. Try thinking when you are cleaning your teeth, "What am I grateful for today" and it anchors your brain to come up with things at that point. Of course then you are desperately cleaning your teeth so you can get to your journal to write them down!!!

Ellie is naughty mentioning the Writer's Forum thing. It was an interview about the New Voices competition. It was nice to see my name in print. Yours was there too, by the way, as I talked about your workshop!

Feel really positive about this year. Off this morning for a cafe writing session with Ellie. Good luck with the gratitude. Mx

Serenity said...

Hi India, What a good idea! Positive affirmation is a great thing and I believe we can never tell ourselves, and each other, how great we are! Also I don't know if it's just me but I find negative things tend to assume much greater importance in my head than positive; nine people can say nice things to me but I'll focus on the one not so nice. So this sort of thing, focussing on good things in my life, is a good way to brighten up the day!

wannabe a writer said...

Hi India

I think this idea is the perfect thing to get us through the two most depressing months of the year.

It fits in well with one of my New Year's resolutions which is to try to be more of a glass half full person.

So here we go:

1. My husband is over his flu and not keeping me awake coughing all night.

2. I spent a lovely Sunday with family and friends.

3. And this is the one I'm most excited by - I've joined the RNA New Writer's scheme.

See, I'm so happy now I'm positively dancing.

Thank you!


India said...

Thanks for that Morton (and the WF mention!) My next question is, did you find it a challenge not to come up with the same things, or is that exactly what it's about - thinking deeply about specific details of your day, and not just saying 'I have healthy children' etc. Hope you had a nice lunch with Ellie - she would definitely be on my list of things to be grateful for!

Serenity, you are SO right about the negative looming large over the positive. You know, it's funny, I don't notice how negative I can sometimes be in my own head, but I surely notice it when my children start on that negative cycle and it frustrates me so much. You know the kind of thing - there are no biscuits, they can't find a school shirt, they don't know what the history homework was, and they're looking to blame someone for all of it. And then I catch myself doing the same thing! It's a real wake up call - I definitely need to learn to focus on the positive.

Linda, I love that - the image of you dancing has brightened my morning and inspired me. Glad your husband is better, and huge HURRAH on joining the NWS - it's going to be a positive and productive (and busy) year for you!

Kristy Price said...

I'm grateful for the following:

1. A husband who brings me flowers when I'm feeling down, still laughs at my jokes and notices when I change my hair.

2. Three fantastic, sweet and happy children who make me smile every day i.e.
My 3 year old son: What's this music?
My husband: Claire de Lune. Do you like it?
Son: No. Turn it off.

3. My extended family who make it possible for my husband and I to stlll be 'us'.

4. The opportunity to practice my writing and enjoy doing it.

5. Being allowed to eat 250 more calories a day while I breastfeed - bring on the chocolate!

Think I might make myself do this every day. Good call India.

x Kristy

Morton S Gray said...

India with a gratitude journal it doesn't matter particularly if you are original or deep. I think it is more important to record the things which are uppermost in your mind on that day.

As today I am feeling less confident about my writing, I might counter this by writing in my journal that I am grateful for ideas, my eyes to enable me to see the world, my laptop to record my ideas, lovely pens and notebooks, my encouraging friends on Facebook, etc.

Louise Hay has written a book called 'Gratitude: A Way of Life'. Both Ellie and I have her daily 'I Can Do It' calendar each year, which is tremendously uplifting.

Good luck with gratitude book and keep it light and fun. Mx

Kate Hewitt said...

Just Dance was under our Christmas tree too, and I'm the worst in my family. My six year old son dances better than I do, and that is saying something! I'm thankful for friends, family, and the opportunity to do what I love for a living! And for a fourth, health, because it's so easy to take it for granted.

India said...

Morton, I must confess when I posted this 'light' and 'fun' was all I was thinking, but actually everyone's comments have really moved me! There really is something powerful in this gratitude thing.

Kristy, your list is just gorgeous - especially the bit about your son. Sniff. You must write down all the little gems that fall from the mouths of toddlers whatever else you do. (And only 250 extra calories for breastfeeding? I always thought it was 2500. Think that might have been where I went wrong...)

Kate, the trick is to practise when you have the house to yourself. I intend to wow my daughters into respectful silence at the weekend with my move-perfect rendition of Wake Me Up Before You GoGo. Oh yes. (And my gratitude list would be pretty much the same as yours. With my new book refusing to co-operate it was good to be reminded that I do love what I do for a living. I *do*...)

Julie Cohen said...

I'm thankful for this post which really made me smile!

India said...

Ahh Julie - it's so lovely to hear your voice! (I kind of know that, in reality, I haven't actually heard it, but it feels like I have. Do I need to get out more?)

Bluestocking Mum said...

Hello India

Good to make your aquaintance. I found you through Kate Hardy.

I don't keep a gratitude journal but I often have days as your blog when I'm thankful for what I have, and count my blessings.

And I have Sarah Ban Breathnach's book of 'Simple Abundance' by the side of my bed which I dip into on those 'blue' days and whenever I feel the need to remind myself of what I have.

Look forward to following your posts.

warm wishes

India said...

Hello Debbie, thanks for coming over from lovely Kate's blog (she's a lot better at posting than I am. In fact, she's a lot better at most things!)

Thank you for the book recommendation - I love it when people pass on information about books they value, and I'll certainly look it up. It's such an underrated thing, appreciation. The other day I was so thrilled when my middle daughter said, in a general way, that she was really happy with life at the moment. It's so easy to get hung up on what you still haven't done/got/become that you lose sight of what you have. We probably all need to congratulate ourselves a bit more! (In a nice way. Preferably one that involves cake.)